An industry veteran with 42 years of knowledge poured into her synonymous skin-care line, Paula Begoun became immersed in everything dermatology during her college years as a science major with access to medical libraries and a passion for ingredients. “I started formulating in 1993 and launched my first 10 products on the internet in 1995, and what we didn’t know about skin care in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, we know now. It’s so much, it makes my head hurt, but the evolution of skin care is thrilling.”
One ingredient the founder has delved deep into as of late is phytoestrogens, which has yet to really join mainstream conversation, but we’re getting closer, and Begoun’s two new products (launching today) help the cause. (We also covered the topic a few years ago with this same goal in mind.) Phytoestrogens are natural compounds found in some plants and plant-based foods that have a similar chemical structure to human estrogen molecules. Scientists are studying how these plant compounds can play a role in estrogen loss, which has piqued Begoun’s interest.
How Estrogen Loss Impacts Skin
“If you’re like me at the age of 69 and have acne and oily skin, what I do to take care of them is the same as somebody younger, but the one real exception to the rule where age and skin care matter is around estrogen loss,” she says. “Estrogen loss absolutely impacts skin adversely in terms of aging, health and balance, and that starts around the age of 45. For personal reasons, I couldn’t go on HRT [Hormone Replacement Therapy], so I was looking into what estrogen loss did to the body and what my options for dealing with it were. It was rare to find a study that didn’t include something about the impact of estrogen loss on skin, and it’s pretty significant.”
“Sometime around the age of 45,” Begoun continues, “estrogen starts dropping off until menopause—lord knows I’ve been through menopause—though some women go through menopause younger. Sebum production decreases, pores start shrinking, collagen loss increases, and skin loses its ability to produce hyaluronic acid and ceramides, which hurts the skin barrier and density. And, the combination of this with sun damage and pollution damage is the perfect storm.”
What are phytoestrogens?
Our skin contains a high density of estrogen receptors, which phytoestrogens can bind to and mimic the effects. “Women start making estrogen between the ages of 8 and 12, and the primary estrogen that the ovaries make is estradiol, and the adrenals and fat cells provide other weaker estrogens,” Begoun explains. “Phytoestrogens communicate to the skin that it has estrogen. Research shows there are two ways you can teach skin it has normal levels of estrogen: The first way is a topical, prescription-only estradiol product, which absorbs into the body and usually has to be balanced with progesterone, and the research is very clear that crepiness is less pronounced and the elasticity of skin improves and bounces back—it’s really kind of astounding. The second way is well-researched phytoestrogens in the form of soy isoflavones, which molecularly act like estrogen and can bind to estrogen receptor sites in skin. Though the estradiol product is more potent and provides better results initially than phytoestrogen, research shows that continued use of phytoestrogens can catch up with the prescription method.”
Begoun says we also get a lot of phytoestrogens in everyday foods like carrots, rice, oats, wine, berries, broccoli, and most cruciferous vegetables, but soy foods have the highest concentration. “But, these aren’t related to our skin,” she adds. “I’ve been drinking soy lattes forever and I’m a tofu girl, and I haven’t seen crap happen to my skin and counteract estrogen loss. I didn’t see any clear research around diets and digestion and those benefits moving to the skin, and I don’t know why they don’t.”
How Paula’s Choice Is Addressing Menopausal Skin
However, after incorporating her phytoestrogen products into her skin-care routine, Begoun noticed changes. “One of the first things I personally experienced was a reduction in crepiness in my skin, and then the variscosity on the backs of my hands improved and I got some of the bounce back,” Begoun describes. “But I don’t like anecdotal evidence, I like research. The three phytoestrogens we chose to use in these products are daidzein, genistein and equol, which are considered the most potent soy isoflavones. It’s a little tricky to formulate with them in a product, but they’re just lovely. Daidzein is shown to reignite skin’s natural hyaluronic acid production, as well as its organization in skin—it helps ensure the HA ‘lays’ properly—so that skin becomes denser and looks plump. It’s also been shown to stimulate new collagen while inhibiting two collagen-degrading enzymes, MMP1 and MMP2.”
In the CLINICAL Phytoestrogen Elasticity Renewal Serum ($48), which Begoun uses twice a day, she also included resveratrol, “a longstanding antioxidant and cell-improving ingredient, and research shows it also has phytoestrogen,” she says. “It is important to note that phytoestrogen products aren’t meant to replace other products in your routine—they don’t do what retinol does, or niacinamide, etc. You’re also not miraculously back to your 30-year-old levels after using them—you still need help with the other things that have impacted your skin.”
There’s also a lightweight CLINICAL Phytoestrogen Elasticity Renewal Body Treatment ($68), which Begoun actually uses on her face because she is acne-prone and “it’s lighter than the serum; the serum is more hydrating.” The Body Treatment targets crepey, estrogen-depleted skin on the chest, forearms and hands. “It improves the appearance of thinning skin and encourages a boost in skin elasticity that you can really see.”